If you have been prescribed medication by your healthcare provider or you take over-the-counter drugs, you should be aware of the newest provision of the New Hampshire DWI law. Under the new law, you can be convicted of DWI for taking your medication as directed by your physician, or taking an over-the-counter drug, if doing so impairs your driving.
Before the new provision took effect on January 1, 2013, DWI convictions were limited to the use of alcohol or illegal drugs. However, the legislature has expanded the types of substances that can be used by the police to convict.
If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your doctor about the effects of the drug. If it can interfere with your coordination, vision or concentration, or if it may affect your ability to think clearly, you should not drive. Read the informational sheet you received from the pharmacy with your prescriptions, paying close attention to the section describing possible side effects. If it warns against drinking alcohol when taking the medication, do not drink.
You also need to know how over-the-counter drugs you are taking can affect your coordination, vision and concentration or your ability to think clearly. If the label warns against drinking alcohol while taking the drug, do not drink.
Furthermore, if you have a change in habit, do not drive until you know how that change can intensify the way that the prescription or over-the-counter drug will affect you. Changes in diet, loss of sleep, illness - even simply missing a meal - can result in a drug impairing your driving ability. Discuss with your doctor what changes can intensify effects of the drug so you know what to expect. While you may have been taking the drug for years with a physician monitoring your medication, if you are stopped by the police and a blood test finds you have any drug in your system, you can be found guilty of DWI if the type of drug in your system affects coordination, vision or concentration or thought processes.
When taking any medication, make sure you are aware of the effects, that you have spoken with your doctor and s/he is monitoring your medication, that you have not had any alcohol while taking the medication, you have followed your routine for sleeping and eating, and that you know whether changes in medication or routine will affect your ability to drive. This will assist you should you ever be arrested for DWI. By showing you were responsible you have a better chance of winning your case or receiving an offer to plea to a lesser offense.
It is not against the law to take your prescribed medication or over-the-counter drugs. It is against the law to be impaired to any degree by alcohol or any type of drug. Regardless of whether your physician says a drug is safe if taken as directed, or the label on the over-the-counter drug does not warn of interference with coordination, vision, concentration or your ability to think clearly, you are ultimately responsible for determing whether you are able to drive without impairment.
If you find yourself facing a DWI charge, contact our office for a consulation as soon as possible. We can help.
(Posted Jan. 2013)
Law Office of Diana G. Bolander, P.C.
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